Medieval city of Spoleto draws tourists, artists
Basilica of San Salvatore among well-preserved sites15 October, 17:33
Indeed, Michelangelo found inspiration in the light-coloured stones, the forests around the city, and the occupants of its hilly landscape, say such contemporary art historians as Giorgio Vasari.
"I have had pleasure in the mountains of Spoleto, and visiting those hermits," wrote Vasari, quoting Michelangelo, "so that I am less than half returned to Rome because I really do not find peace, except in the woods".
Similarly, English painters, including William Turner, the American Edward Peticolas and Johan Ludvig Lund of Denmark filled their notebooks with sketches of the spectacular landscapes and views of the city.
Writers also found inspiration in Spoleto and its Umbrian environment.
The French novelist Stendhal expressed great admiration for the walks he followed along a stretch of road that is today know as the Viale Matteotti, taking in the sights where the old city creeps out between the green of the surrounding hills.
Similarly, Giosue Carducci and Gabriele D'Annunzio used their poetry to praise the beauty of the Spoleto landscape.
The spectacular Ponte delle Torri inspired German writer Johann Wolfgang Goethe, who described the scene in one of the most beautiful pages of his novel, Italian Journey.
In its earliest days, Spoleto was a thriving Roman town - its ancient origins still evident in the city's Arch of Drusus and Germanicus, which date from 23 AD; to the first-century Roman Theatre and the fascinating Casa Romana, an early example of how Romans of the day lived while in Spoleto.
The city evolved and by the fourth century, it had become a centre for the Church, developing a solid ecclesiastical organization.
Then, with the arrival of the Lombards in Italy, Spoleto developed a fundamental political role as Faroaldo II formed the Lombard Duchy of Spoleto. The duchy, with its capital in Spoleto, largely remained independent until 729 AD, when it was subjected to the Lombard king.
The Basilica of San Salvatore, a well-preserved structure perched at the edge of the city, was associated with a period of independence in Spoleto, according to recent studies.
Today it retains a similar style of architecture to other Lombard structures around Italy and has been named one of the greatest monuments of Spoleto.
It is also one of six important Italian monuments of the Lombard period, according to the UNESCO World Heritage committee, which has designated the site as having international importance.
Spoleto continued to serve a crucial political role through the medieval era and into the Renaissance period.
Cardinal Albornoz chose Spoleto in 1362 as a centre for the re-conquest of the Papal States and Ugolino di Montemarte, known as il Gattapone, ordered the construction of the fortress which, from the end of the 14th century, became the seat of the rulers of the duchy of Spoleto.
Spoleto again became a community of great prestige as the capital of the department of Trasimeno, which extended from Rieti to Perugia, between 1808 and 1815, during the Napoleonic Empire.
Fortunes changed somewhat for Spoleto after the Second World War with a crisis in mining and agriculture that led to a migration of workers from Spoleto and Umbria to other parts of the country and beyond Italy.
Still, Spoleto remained an international centre for culture, with the founding in 1947 of the Teatro Lirico Sperimentale, the inauguration in 1952 of the Italian Center for Studies of the Middle Ages, and the internationally known Festival of Two Worlds, which began in 1958.